Tag Archives: marketing

Working for an agency

4 Aug

Recruitment agencies act as an intermediary between an employer looking to fill a vacancy and someone seeking work. Having this middle man may seem like a disadvantage but can actually be a great way to return to employment or find your ideal job.

The role of the agency itself is to find suitable candidates for vacancies and there is often a lot of pressure to do so. When seeking an agency; find out if they offer relevant roles as some will specialise in specific industries that may not be relevant to you. It’s good to physically take in your CV and discuss the kind of role you are seeking so you become more memorable, just remember that this will be their first impression of you so be friendly and presentable.

Agencies often work closely with employers and can give you hints or tips on what to expect if you are offered an interview. If you are successful, you will be paid by the agency but managed by the employer, with the right to use any onsite facilities such as canteens or nurseries. If you are in the same role for 12 weeks, then you are entitled to the same pay and benefits as any permanent members of the company doing the same job.

Several of the positions offered by agencies are temporary but can still be used to your advantage as you can prove yourself to the employer and may even be offered a direct position. A temporary role can be taken whilst you look for permanent work or used as valuable experience.

Although you are entitled to paid holiday hours you cannot claim maternity leave whilst working for an agency, you also cannot claim redundancy or file for unfair dismissal so just bear these factors in mind before contacting.

However, overall a recruitment agency can be a great way to find a suitable vacancy. So search your local area and send your CV today!



Focus Groups for your Business Idea

27 Jul

What are focus groups?

A Focus Group is a market research tool which involves a group of people, usually between 6 and 12, who have been selected to participate in a pre-planned group discussion, and/or Q&A session, to gauge opinion on a product or service. Using a focus group to research your products or service before you start your business, can help you to identify ways to sell or advertise to your target group. It’s also a valuable tool when introducing a new product or service, or to find out how your product or service is being perceived.

What are the benefits of organising a Focus Group?

Focus groups can help you to gather a broader range of information than surveys because they allow people to voice their opinions in their own words and add meaning to their answers. They can also generate ideas for improving or adapting your product/service which you may not have considered.

How do I set up a focus group?

1. Decide on what type of people you want in your group: age, income, gender, employment?

2. Advertise your focus group in a way that’s going to attract the people you want. You could use Facebook, for example, go to community centres or mother and child groups, have a stall in a market and invite people who come to look at your product, put up a poster or invite people you know personally.

3. Arrange a venue for your focus group. It should be somewhere easily accessible, private and quiet enough to talk.

4. Ensure the meeting space is well prepared beforehand i.e. layout, equipment, parking spaces etc.

5. Prepare an introduction which explains the purpose of thee focus group and how it will work

What questions do I ask the group?

goodWork out what information you need. Create a set of questions which will give you this information. Ensure that these are easy to understand and will give you the answers you need. Get someone who does not know what you are doing to look at your introduction and questions to see if you get the right sort of answers.
For example:

  •  Would you use this product?
  • Would you buy this product for yourself?
  • Would you buy this product as a gift?
  • How much would you pay for this product?
  • Would you pay x amount for this product?
  • How would you improve this product?
  • What is your opinion on the packaging of this product?
  • Does the packaging make you want to buy the product?
  • What do you think of the colours used in the packaging?
  • Where would you go to buy this product?
  • Do you have any other ideas about this product?

Online Focus Groups

Running an online focus group eliminates the need for travel, refreshments, and finding a venue. Other advantages could include people feeling more able to speak out as they are anonymous to the rest of the group and can sit in the comfort of their own home.

Disadvantages include not being able to see the body language of the participants, which provides another method of seeing how a product is received.


  • Don’t make it last too long – participants could lose focus or get bored

  • If possible, arrange refreshments

  • Don’t make the group too big – you don’t want anyone to feel left out, or unable to voice their opinions

The day to day reality of business start-up

5 May

Starting self-employment as a sole trader, whether it’s as a window cleaner or dog groomer is a long process but completely worth it! It can be hard to know what to expect in the early days so we have spoken to Ritchie, a self-employed car valeter to give us some tips.  

Raising funds:
Your new venture may require specific equipment or start-up essentials and you need to find a way to raise the funds. You might start off by selling unwanted personal goods (I’d recommend your games console as you’ll have less time to play it if you’re committed!) or by asking family and friends for support. There are always start-up loans and banks but I was pleasantly surprised by the help I received from those around me.

Gaining new custosprayingmers: No matter what kind of day you’re having or what mood you’re in you must remain polite and presentable with customers. Those first impressions are critical to spreading news of your business and building your customer base.  Never let a customer down by arriving late and remember there are always competitor’s ready to fill your place if you don’t give good service!

Constant commitment: When I’ve finished valeting a car I can’t just make my way down to the pub. I’ve got to think about completing my paper work, meeting new customers, replacing stock and cleaning my equipment. Then there are other duties that might not have been thought of such as visiting the bank, training, buying new equipment and keeping up with industry trends. Just stay on top of your tasks and you will see great reward.

Getting support: It’s ok to not know some aspects of business start-up and there is plenty of support available out there. There are sites such as the HMRC site or organisations like Opportunity Plus (www.opsw.co.uk) that can offer advice or guidance.

It may seem like a lot of work but I LOVE working for myself. I get to meet people from all walks of life, earn my own money and see my business grow. I’m constantly learning new skills and surprising myself without dreading Monday morning!

You get what you put in, persevere through the start-up phase and you will succeed!

Check out Ritchie’s website at http://www.carcareplus.co.uk/

Interview: Moo Music

17 May

Logo with Background

Moo Music is a pre school music opportunity now available nationally. Opportunity Plus spoke to ideas man Ant Parker and franchisee Ali Hider to find out about their experiences of self-employment and setting up a business.

How did Moo Music get started?

Ant: We decided to create Moo Music as a business opportunity when my wife Jess and I were bringing up our two daughters, Hannah and Eve. We noticed a distinct lack of good quality and wholesome children’s music. Being musicians ourselves we eventually had enough of the poor quality and cheaply recorded children’s songs and commissioned a professional children’s songwriter to write and record a series of songs.

The brief was that they had to be positive, uplifting, fun and educational. They also had to be recorded properly with real instruments, lots of vocal harmonies and most importantly… adults had to enjoy the listening experience as well as the children! It didn’t take long to realise that these songs needed sharing and that other parents in the area were crying out for something similar.

Having said that the aim of Moo Music is not only to give 0 to 5 year olds some fantastic experiences with music but to give young mums the opportunity to start and run a flexible business when their own children start school.

Ali: Ant is my brother and he had the idea a long time ago. He created Moo Music over time but then needed someone to actually put the sessions and ideas into practice, so that’s where I came in. I have always worked with children in various settings from private homes to nurseries/schools and I have a huge passion for music so this suited me perfectly!

Ant Jess Hannah Eve Web Res

What is your role within the business?

Ant: I do the general admin for the business – accounts – sales – licensing – marketing – business help – franchisee motivation – stock ordering etc. Jess does the packing up and sending of stock and also helps with the ‘help and support’ for the franchisees.

Ali: I am primarily a franchisee of the business but I also act as an advisor and trainer for the new franchisees. This involves people coming to observe my sessions and question/answer forums. I also attend festivals and other events to promote Moo Music. We are hoping to do a Moo Music live event in the city with a live band! Very exciting…

How have you gone about marketing the business?

Ant: Moo Music has only been available nationally since January this year. Before that it was only available to friends and friends of friends etc.

Since launching nationally we use Google ‘Pay Per Click’ and all of our sales so far have come from this. I have also taken out a year’s advertising with www.femalefranchise.co.uk which has brought is a few leads but no sales yet. I do have a mail-out scheduled with them in June so that should see the best results.

I will also start Facebook Ads soon. The beauty of Google PPC and Facebook is that you can market to a very tight potential customer base and only pay pence if they click on the links. The Google PPC takes them to the following video www.letsmakemoomusic.co.uk and if they are interested enough to carry on and watch the second video we have their email address so can engage in a conversation.

Ali: I market the business in a variety of ways including ads in local magazines and newspapers. House to house leaflet dropping, Moo Music magnets all over my car! Leaflets in school/nursery book bags also notice boards, however I have to say that “word of mouth” is the most effective. I started with two children in a small hall and a year on I have 90 children over 9 sessions!

What are the benefits of being self-employed?

Ant: Flexibility and a sense of worth!

Ali: I can work the business around my family easily and other projects that I’m involved in, in the local community. It’s is extremely satisfying to see something grow so rapidly and successfully.

What personal qualities would you say are needed for self-employment?

Ant: Be strong minded and believe in yourself. Be nice to people. Remember that no one knows your business better than you do or will ever be as bothered about it as you.

Ali: I would say you need to be hard working, reliable, focused, patient, approachable and fun! I have also had to learn to be a bit more assertive which has been quite hard at times when I’m not naturally like that.

Ali Hider with a Class Web Res

What advice would you give to someone considering self-employment?

Ant: It definitely gives you flexibility but it will be hard work. It’s very hard to ‘switch off’ mentally even if you have a separate workspace. Most people will advise you not to… but you’ll find these people are the ones stuck in their day jobs earning money for someone else! If you have a dream… Go for it!

Ali: I would say get the right people around you to support you and who understand your vision. Find others who are in a similar position. Network!

What are your plans for the future of the business?

Ant: We’d like to get Moo Music spread as far around the UK as possible and are aiming for 100 separate areas. We have 10 so far.

Ali: I have 3 postcodes to work in and as the business continues to grow, I plan to take on freelance staff to run sessions for me so I can concentrate on expanding the business. However, as long as I am able to, I want to be running the sessions as that’s really where my heart is. Maybe I will need to employ an admin person too!

You can  find out more about Moo Music by visiting their website http://www.moo-music.co.uk and following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Five Top Tips for Writing a Press Release

7 Oct

Media coverage is a great way of raising the profile of your business. As well as being cheaper than paid advertising, consumers trust editorial content a lot more1. But writing a press release that results in those all important column inches can sometimes seem like a dark art.

It helps to start off with a clear idea of what you want to say and who your target audience is. What would you like them to do as a result of reading about your business? This is called a call to action and is a great starting point when writing your press release and deciding what information to include. It also focuses the mind when deciding on your target publications. Don’t forget, today’s media landscape is hugely varied and your news may be more relevant to trade press than local or national publications. You may also consider outlets such as radio stations ,TV channels or online newswires. Decide what you want to gain as a result of any media coverage with measurable objectives. For example, you might want to generate 30 enquiries about a new product.

Press releases follow a set format. At the top, you need to write: ‘Press Release’. Include your company name, the date and a headline. Then write the story, when it is finished, let the journalist know by writing ‘Ends’. Don’t forget to add your contact details, in case the journalist wants to get in touch for more detail. You can provide further background information underneath in a section called ‘Notes to editors’. This might include general information about your organisation and its services.

Here are five tips to help you ensure your press release results in media coverage:

  1. Make sure the most important information is in the first sentence. Your first paragraph should answer the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? A good rule of thumb is to imagine you are telling your mum or your best friend the latest news. Ask yourself if your text would excite them? If it doesn’t, reword it until it works. Your subsequent paragraphs should answer the question How?
  2. Keep it simple and brief. Try and keep your press release to one side of A4. Keep sentences short and lively and avoid using any jargon. If you need to use acronyms, always spell them out in the first instance. Journalists don’t have time to wade through several paragraphs to get to the key points, so make sure the most important information is the first thing they see.
  3. Your press release needs to be timely. News is all about what is happening now, so send the release in good time for the publication to print the story while it is still relevant. It can be helpful to ring your target publications and ask when their copy deadline is. And while you’re on the phone, check that you will be sending the release to the right person. For information that may not be time sensitive, incorporate a ‘news hook’, for example you could tie it in with an awareness week or another story that is current.
  4. Include a quote from a key person to add some human interest, depth and gravitas. You can use the quote to explain in further detail why your news is so important and how it is relevant to your audience.
  5. Include an image to add colour to your story. Many media outlets no longer have in-house photographers, but they still need to include pictures in their publications. Ensure the image is high quality and invest in a professional photographer if you can afford it. Not only does including an image mean that you get extra space on the page, but it can sometimes be the deciding factor on whether your story gets published at all. Above all, pictures add life to your story and they draw the audience’s eye.

After your story has appeared, make the most of the exposure. Add cuttings to your website and include links in your social networks and newsletters. If it’s a particularly positive piece endorsing a product or service you offer, add quotes to your testimonials pages.

About the Author:

Joanna Bowery is a former journalist and is the founder and director of Cosmic-Frog, which provides organisations with accessible marketing and communications services.



1 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report says 58% of consumers trust editorial content such as newspaper articles, while 46% trust ads in newspapers


Shake Shake Shake!

4 Mar

If ever anyone needed evidence of just how powerful Facebook can be, this is it.  How else could you ever hope to get hundreds of strangers together in fancy dress on a freezing cold day?!

On 22nd February 2013, a Facebook event was created by two people wanting to do their own seaside version of the Harlem Shake videos that are so popular on Youtube.  They were hoping to get around 50 people to get together ten days later on the Den in Teignmouth to create their video.  Within a few days, more than 2000 people had been invited, and over 500 had put themselves as “Attending” on the Facebook event page.

Sunday 3rd March came round, as bitterly cold as the week leading up to it, but by 4.00pm hundreds of people had gathered on the den ready to shake!  Not that there had ever been any doubts that the weather would put anyone off, this is a town where hundreds of people voluntarily run into the sea every year on Boxing Day!

Boxing day walk into the sea 2012

It was brilliantly organised, and came together really smoothly.  OPSW’s Chloe and Amie are in the group of boring/normal people sat on the grass at the beginning – fame!


If you would like support using Facebook to market your business, call us on 0800 043 2440.

A New Approach to Marketing

25 Feb

Arabella runs the Natural Nursery, selling cloth nappies, slings and other baby items.  The Natural Nursery originally had premises in Bristol, but since moving to Exeter and having another baby, Arabella has decided to use alternative methods to market her products and reach her customers.

“Over the 8 years I have been running my business, the Natural Nursery, I have seen huge changes in the market and it has been very important to adapt to reflect these.  I have seen lots of small businesses set up, for example selling baby slings or cloth nappies, and, unfortunately, close down a few years or even months later as they have not been able to make a go of it financially.

Times are increasingly tough for everyone but it needn’t be all doom and gloom – there are lots of ways you can help to ensure that your business is one of the success stories.  At the moment, The Natural Nursery does not have a fulltime high street presence in Exeter, so I am always looking for new ways to make sure the local families know of us and what we can offer.  Advertising is very expensive and, I find, very hit and miss, so here are some of my favourite ways to market my cloth nappies and sling business to the local families.

1. Pop up Shop.  I love meeting people face to face but at the moment can’t commit to running a shop full time again due to family commitments. The pop up shop has been really popular with customers and allows me to commit to a few days at a time.  I found a local business that has some spare space and negotiated with them to rent a shop unit in one of local shopping arcades for 3 days a month.  We agreed a daily rate, I had some posters made up and marketed the days via Facebook, Twitter, baby forums etc.  Customers love the idea – it means they can come in and browse through my range at their leisure, they can ask all the questions that they want and many people, dads especially, feel more comfortable in a shop environment.

2. Table at local toddler groups etc. This is another lovely way to meet people and allows your local market to put a face to your name.  It is important not to be too focused on SELLING – people are there to chat, meet their friends, play with their children, not to buy something, so be prepared to introduce yourself and your business, say a few quick words and have information that they can take away with them.  If you show the group leaders and parents that you are happy to offer them information and advice if needed, and don’t go into a high pressure sales pitch, you will find that you build strong relationships, so that you will be invited back again and again and will be the first port of call when they DO want to buy.

3. Table in a local shop. In a similar vein to visiting local toddler groups, making contact with a shop that has a similar target market to yours can pay big dividends.  I regularly visit shops to provide demos of nappies and slings to their customers and it is a win win situation.  The customers have access to free, detailed advice, the shop owner has more people through the door who may buy something else while they are there and you have access to more potential customers.  There are lots of ways you can do this, a one off event, a regular session, you may simply do a demo or actually take stock with you to sell.  If the latter, it may be a nice gesture to pay some commission to the shop owner – after all you are using their space for free and they will have hefty rents and rates to pay.

4. Leave stock in shops on a sale or return basis.  This works really well with shops that you visit to do demos in – customers can listen to everything you have to say, knowing there is no pressure to buy there and then, and can return at their leisure to have another look and buy if they want.  Again, I like to offer some form of commission to the shop owner as you are using space that they could put other stock into.

5. Organise a special event. Get together with a group of other likeminded businesses where you all want to attract the same type of customers and hold a big event.  This could be a baby fair, a local street market, a bring and buy sale, a sponsored bake or dance.  Anything that you will enjoy organising, that you think your target market will want to participate in and will be FUN, would work.  With clever budgeting, it shouldn’t cost much more than the price of hiring a local Scout Hut or community hall, and that would be shared between the group of you.  Use Facebook, Twitter, posters in local shops and cafes and each other’s existing network to market the event, drop the local press a line about it (if you tell them in advance they may publicise the event for you and then you can also send them a short story of the event itself with some photos, so you could be in the paper twice).  On the day, make sure you circulate to make lots of contacts and remember it is not all about how much you sell on the day, the friends and extended network you create will pay dividends in the long run.

Remember, building a successful business is a long process, so don’t be too focussed on the sale today; look to creating a flourishing network of contacts that know you to be THE expert in your area and they will soon be recommending you to all their friends and clients.”


Arabella has been running the Natural Nursery for over 8 years, selling a range of cloth nappies and baby slings.

Arabella is available for demos of slings and nappies at various locations in Exeter, including the new baby shop, Lilibets on Fore Street, Heavitree, Exeter, on Wednesday afternoons.

Full details of these and other events arranged by Arabella can be found on www.exeterbabyactivities.co.uk

You can also find the Natural Nursery on Facebook.